The US state of Missouri has decided to test solar paving technology on America’s most famous road, Route 66.
The state’s transportation department will use tough, electricity-generating panels developed by the pioneering husband-and-wife team Scott and Julie Brusaw, founders of the company Solar Roadways, who captivated the US in 2014 with their plan to pave America with solar panels.
The department hopes that the Historic Route 66 Welcome Center at Conway will get the country’s first solar roadway panels on a public right of way, in a move one official said would bring “the history and the future together”.
The plan was unveiled this week in Kansas City as one of four pilot schemes to probe future highways technology in the state.
“If their version of the future is realistic, if we can make that happen, then roadways can begin paying for themselves,” said Tom Blair, leader of the department’s Road to Tomorrow Initiative, according to newspaper The Kansas City Star.
“We expect them to be in place, I’m hoping, by the end of this year, maybe before snow flies,” Blair said, adding the project could generate a lot of interest by bringing “the history and the future together”.
It was not revealed how large an area would be paved with the panels. According to the newspaper, to get the most out of the project the department will seek crowd funding.
In this the department will be hoping to replicate the success of Solar Roadways’ 2014 crowd funding campaign, in which they raised $2.2m in two months, more than double their target of $1m.
The Brusaws, of Sandpoint, Idaho, have been working on their system for 12 years, and got a boost in 2009 in the form of a $100,000 grant from the Federal Highway Administration to build a prototype solar road panel.
They have since received two more research grants from the US Department of Transportation, the latest in November 2015, worth $750,000, to study freeze-thaw cycling, moisture conditioning, shear testing, and advanced loading on their third-generation panel prototype.
They have claimed that paving all of America’s roads and parking lots with the panels would generate 13,385 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity, more than three times the amount the whole country consumed in 2009.
“We are going to go out there publicly and on the internet … and ask for money to make our solar roadway pilot project even bigger and better,” Tom Blair said.
More information about Solar Roadways can be found here.
In January this year GCR reported that the government of France intends to pave 1,000km of road with photovoltaic panels over the next five years.
The idea drew strong criticism from readers, who questioned the viability of paving roads with solar panels.
Top photograph: A concept rendering of a solar-paved highway (Solar Roadways)